Reporting Jay Levine
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CHICAGO (CBS) –- Outrage surfaced Thursday, a day after Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed charging a “congestion premium” at parking garages, hiking vehicle sticker fees for many motorists and raising the city’s hotel tax rate.
It’s a clear sign that the battle of the mayor’s budget has started, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.
Think gas prices are high? How about paying more than $1,000 a year in city parking fees? That’s gotten drivers’ blood boiling faster than rush hour on the Ike.
And the garage owners are trying to take advantage of it.
Interpark owns or operates 20 garages downtown. On Thursday morning, notices were plastered outside every elevator in their structures, telling customers about the proposed $2-a-day congestion fee and urging them to contact their alderman to protest.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Emil Standfield of Joliet said. “How could we be paying more? It’s $28 for an hour. How much more do you need?”
Interpark CEO J. Marshall Peck warned of other consequences.
“It could change behavior — not just driving behavior, but change decisions to do business in the Loop,” he said.
According to the mayor’s proposal, the city tax for monthly parkers could be $1,200 a year.
Another price hike, for vehicle stickers, is also under an attack. City Clerk Susana Mendoza discovered something Emanuel didn’t reveal Wednesday, which will nearly double vehicle sticker fees for hundreds of thousands. That’s because the Emanuel administration would lower the standard by which automobiles are considered “heavy” vehicles.
“Let’s say you’re driving a Ford Taurus today. That’s a little bit over 4,000 pounds,” she said. “Under the classification that I think they’re looking at, you’d be looking at that car today paying $75 and next year paying $135.
But Mendoza says she doesn’t consider a Taurus to be a large passenger vehicle.
A spokesperson for the mayor admitted Clerk Mendoza was correct. Cars were reclassified, and people will have to pay a lot more. But she denied the mayor was trying to pull a fast one.
Then there are the city’s hotel operators, who are fighting the proposed 1 percent hotel tax hike. In a memo, Convention and Tourism CEO Don Welsh complains that “those of us in the industry were caught off guard by the mayor’s proposal.”
Welsh says he hopes the city would turn over a portion of the new revenue, if approved, for marketing purposes.
Contributing: CBS 2 Political Producer Ed Marshall